By Greg Heakes
Las Vegas (AFP) – Floyd Mayweather danced his way to a unanimous decision over frustrated Manny Pacquiao to win the richest fight in history and cement his place in the pantheon of boxing greats.
Boos rang out from a pro-Pacquiao Las Vegas crowd as Mayweather’s emphatic victory was confirmed by all three scorecards after 12 rounds of cat and mouse action.
Mayweather comfortably outboxed his Filipino rival to snuff out any chance of the full-blooded slugfest that the more aggressive Pacquiao was hoping to ignite.
The win extended Mayweather’s remarkable 19-year unbeaten record to 48-0, putting him within one fight of equalling Rocky Marciano’s legendary milestone of 49-0.
The 38-year-old Mayweather retained his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association welterweight titles and seized Pacquiao’s World Boxing Organization belt by winning the fight on all three of the judges’ scorecards.
“He’s a very awkward fighter, so I had to take my time and watch him close,” Mayweather said. “All 47 fights before I got to this fight played a major role in my career.
“Manny Pacquiao is a true champion and we both did our best tonight. When the history books are written, this fight will have been worth the wait.”
The fight is widely believed to be the most lucrative in boxing history with revenues of $400 million.
– Judges emphatic –
Ringside judge Dave Moretti scored the bout 118-110 for Mayweather, while judges Glenn Feldman and Bert Clements both scored it 116-112 for the American.
But when the results were announced the pro-Pacquiao crowd booed lustily and tried to drown out Mayweather’s post-fight comments over the public address system.
Their Filipino star Pacquiao suffered the sixth loss of his career to go with 57 victories and two draws.
There is no denying that the 36-year-old Pacquiao made Mayweather work for the victory and hit the American with some thundering lefts.
He was the aggressor, pressing the action from the first round and was able to land some right-left combinations on Mayweather’s head, especially on the ropes and in the final seconds of the early rounds.
But ultimately Pacquiao wasn’t able to keep up his frenzied early pace for all 12 rounds and Mayweather, who was the bigger of the two fighters, managed to slip in counterpunches and hard right hands that kept the Filipino southpaw at bay.
Even so, Pacquiao said he thought he did enough to earn the victory.
“I thought I won the fight,” he said. “He didn’t do nothing.”
– September finale? –
Mayweather reiterated afterwards that he plans to retire after his next fight in September which will fulfil his six-fight contract to Showtime Sports.
“My last fight is in September. I’ll do that and I will hang it up,” said Mayweather, estimated to have earned $200 million for one night’s work.
Pacquiao will receive well over $100 million in a 60-40 purse split the fighters agreed to beforehand.
The entrance of the fighters to the ring was delayed about 45 minutes because of problems with the heavy demand for pay-per-view telecast and the providers ability to distribute it.
Some of the biggest names in Hollywood, entertainment and sports were in attendance, including director Clint Eastwood, actors Robert De Niro, Jon Voight, Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper, musician Sting, former NBA star Magic Johnson and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, who visited Pacquiao in his dressing room before the fight.
Only a lucky few had tickets to the bout but thousands more milled around the outside of the Grand Garden arena and in the hotel’s casino.
Mayweather made a grand entrance befitting of his superstar status. He was accompanied by his “The Money Team” which includes his father/trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr.
But Pacquiao arrived first to the ring, smiling relentlessly and even taking a selfie with long-time trainer Freddie Roach during his entrance.
The atmosphere was electric inside the Grand Garden Arena as the crowd got into the fight, cheering every early exchange and urging the boxers to throw more punches.
The tension in the ring was also intense as the fighters exchanged words and even traded low blows in the third round.
Mayweather hit Pacquiao first, prompting Pacquiao to look at referee Kenny Bayless as if to say, “did you see that.”
The Filipino returned the favour when they got together on the ropes moments later.
In the fourth round Pacquiao landed his best punch of the fight so far, hitting Mayweather with an overhand right that knocked him back to the ropes.
He then added a flurry of punches for good measure as the crowd screamed like crazy for him to end the fight.
A couple of times Pacquiao had Mayweather on the ropes but the superbly-fit American took everything he could dish out and still had enough energy in the later rounds to jab, connect with some overhand rights.
He deftly moved out of harm’s way each time Pacquiao came in close for the knockout punch.
Mayweather was so confident of winning by the 12-round that he raised one arm in triumph while the two were still trading punches.
“He is a hell of a fighter. I take my hat off to him,” Mayweather said.
Mayweather threw 435 total punches compared to 429 for Pacquiao and he connected on 34 percent of those to Pacquiao’s 19 percent.
Mayweather also had his jab working in precision fashion as he landed 48 percent to Pacquiao’s 27 percent ratio.
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